By Bernie Becker - 03/30/11 10:37 PM EDT
A Senate GOP aide indicated that the balanced budget amendment had the backing of all 47 GOP senators, while a Republican release on the Thursday news conference called the measure a consensus amendment.
McConnell had reportedly asked the GOP senators pushing the balanced budget proposal to hold off two weeks ago, because he thought the Republican hand would be stronger if all of the party’s senators signed on to the amendment. That decision left some Republicans uncertain about how strongly McConnell backed the idea.
The amendment is also dropping as some of the more conservative Republicans in the Senate – Mike Lee of Utah and Jim DeMint of South Carolina, for example – have signaled that they will filibuster a vote to raise the debt limit unless the chamber first passes a balanced budget amendment or they get some other major concession from Democrats.
The Treasury Department has said it believes the $14.3 trillion ceiling will be hit between April 15 and May 31. It would take 67 senators – or all of the Republican senators, plus 20 members of the Democratic caucus – to pass a balanced budget amendment.
The combined amendment would also allow the federal government to run deficits at any time with a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate, while a three-fifths vote in both chambers would be required during a military conflict that is not a formally declared war. It would also allow taxes to be raised only after a two-thirds vote in both chambers.
On Wednesday, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) introduced a balanced budget amendment modeled after the Toomey plan, saying he wanted to give both the House and the Senate the chance to get behind a single proposal. Another balanced budget proposal, introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), has already been co-sponsored by close to half of the House.